The Three Rs: Joanna Kavenna

October 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

Earlier this year, Joanna Kavenna was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Writers. She has written four books, of which the novel Come To The Edge is the most recent.

When did you first know you wanted to write books?

I always wrote, ie as soon as I could form words with a pen I started writing poems, stories and plays. I never really thought consciously about whether I wanted to write or not, I just wrote for pleasure. I started writing books when I was about 12 or 13, and wrote probably a ‘novel’ a year after that, as well as annotating my paltry teenage agonies in diaries, notebooks, etc. I didn’t show anything to a publisher until I was about 24, and that was a slightly wild sci-fi novel which was summarily rejected. Then I didn’t approach publishers again for several years, though I kept writing novels while doing various dull jobs, scribbling surreptitiously in a notebook as I was pretending to work. So I have never really written determinedly and solely for publication, I just write, and then I send a fraction of what I write to publishers- but most of my ‘output’ either never goes before an editor, or gets rejected for being too weird.

How does writing fit into your typical day?

I write whenever I have time, within the dictates of being a parent – so each day I am working on my current novel, and then also on journalism for immediate cash, lectures for the same, letters/emails, personal meanderings, scrappy notes, recorded conversations, small tirades, etc.

Do you type or write by hand?

Yes, both. By hand for notes, first versions, early drafts. Then I type things up and I always edit on a screen.

What have you read recently that you loved?

The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers by Sarnath Banarjee. Brilliant graphic novel by an amazing, under-feted Indian author.

What are your all-time favourites?

George Orwell, Angela Carter, Anna Wickham, Mark Twain, Henrik Ibsen, Doris Lessing, Anton Chekhov, Knut Hamsun, Virginia Woolf, Robert Bolano, Margaret Atwood, Enrique Vila-Matas, Dino Buzzati, Iain Sinclair, Saul Bellow, Carol Shields, Chan Koonchung, Katherine Mansfield, Renee Vivien, etc.

You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?

I choose to implode…

What’s your third R, and why?

Ridicule – self-ridicule, crucial in order to do anything worthwhile, the gentle loving ridicule of those you most admire, and the ridicule of pompous absolutists and self-anointed experts wherever they might be…

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§ 2 Responses to The Three Rs: Joanna Kavenna

  • I loved ‘The Birth of Love’ but haven’t tried any of her other novels (not sure why – I really should fix that!) This is a great interview – so many of her favourite authors are also on my list, but there are a few I haven’t heard of. *heads off to look up Ibsen. Buzzati and Banarjee!*

  • It is a good list, I agree. Nice to see some contemporary translations on there!

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